Seeking Better Journalism On The Bullying-Suicide Connection


The suicides of Massachusetts’ Phoebe Prince and New Jersey’s Tyler Clementi after being bullied continue to make international headlines, but just how strong is the connection between bullying, in its many forms, and suicide?, asks Bruce Shapiro of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Local prosecutors’ prsuit controversial criminal charges against the young people accused of bullying has inspired a journalistic backlash, says Shapiro: a growing heap of stories that question not just whether prosecutors are overzealous but whether teenagers’ victimization by their peers is itself an overblown issue.

“When treading upon the fragile, difficult landscape of teen suicide, journalists have a special responsibility to educate themselves and to go beyond the phone call to the local university for an expert quote,” Shapiro says, recommending a look at good studies on the issue. He adds that “perhaps some compassionate and imaginative reporting can even help retire the utterly inadequate word ‘bullying’ ” to describe what is going on.

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